AOC changed personnel policy re: seniority four days before layoffs

AOC and state court officials changed policies regarding layoffs so those with the most seniority no longer were protected.

Some employees who were laid off Sept. 15 had more than 20 years’ experience in the courts or state government.

Leigh Anne Hiatt, a spokeswoman for the court system, said the Administrative Office of the Courts and state Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton had to change the personnel policy because the previous policy did not cover the court’s current fiscal problems.

In its decision to cut staff, the court system looked at what it was supposed to perform by statute. The office decided that various departments within the court system — including mediation and training — were not part of its mandate. Those positions and others were abolished, Hiatt said.

The 47 layoffs were part of a larger cost-cutting measure at the Administrative Office of the Courts, which oversees the state’s court system. Because of declining state revenues, the state’s judicial branch faced a deficit of about $35 million. The job cuts resulted in a savings of $2.1 million, and additional cuts to supplies and reimbursements brought total reductions to $4.5 million.

The revised Sept. 11 order allowed employees to apply for jobs in any county, not just the county they were in. Those with the most seniority were given first preference on jobs, Dudgeon said.

It is rumored that similar job cuts may be necessary in other state agencies in 2010 as the budget crisis worsens in state government.

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